J.D. Crowe and the New South
7 p.m. April 7 at Meadowgreen Park Music Hall, 303 Bluegrass Lane, Clay City. $15. (606) 663-9008. Kyfriends.com.
Banjos, banjos — it seems everywhere you look and listen this spring in the Bluegrass, there are banjos.
Last week, we had the great Nitty Gritty Dirt Band banjoist John McEuen performing for WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour (see accompanying review in "The Week That Was"). On Wednesday, the very worldly banjo music of Abigail Washburn heads to Natasha's Bistro & Bar (see my interview with her in Living Sunday). And of course, we also had the death last week of the most revolutionary banjo player of perhaps any era, Earl Scruggs.
So it seems only natural that smack in the middle of all this banjo awareness is a return performance by Central Kentucky's own Grammy-winning banjo great J.D. Crowe and the newest edition of his long-running band New South.
His concert Saturday in Clay City comes especially recommended for two reasons. It probably will be the last opportunity to catch a headlining show by Crowe before he hits the summer bluegrass festival circuit. Sure, festival dates are fun. But nothing beats the chance to hear Crowe in one of the region's most inviting, homey and intimate concert settings: Meadowgreen Park Music Hall.
The other reason is that the performance is the last scheduled date on this season's fall-to-spring concert schedule at Meadowgreen Park. During the past six months, the venue has presented Saturday night shows by IIIrd Tyme Out, The Grascals and Kentucky Music Hall of Fame inductee Melvin Goins, among others.
It's noteworthy that Scruggs' death falls in the middle of this Central Kentucky banjo spree that includes Crowe's show. For years, Crowe has acknowledged Scruggs and his famed three-finger picking style as a strong influence on Crowe's playing. It turns out the admiration was quite mutual.
Last weekend, I wrote on my blog edition, The Musical Box, a partial transcript of an unpublished 2007 interview I conducted with Scruggs. Among the many topics we covered was his fondness for Crowe and his music. Here is what one banjo icon had to say about another.
"Oh, he's one of the greatest," Scruggs said of Crowe. "I love J.D. I've known him since he was knee-high to a duck. He knows how the music should sound, so he gets in there and digs it out."
Cumberland Gap Connection also is on Saturday's bill.
Wednesday with Warren
Wednesday doesn't just bring Abigail Washburn's cross-continental banjo music to Natasha's, 112 Esplanade. (8 p.m. $18 in advance, $22 day of show. (859) 259-2754. Beetnik.com.)
The same evening has Buster's Billiards & Backroom, 899 Manchester Street, hosting the local debut of The Warren Haynes Band. (9 p.m. $25 in advance, $28 day of show. Bustersbb.com.)
Haynes is the immensely acclaimed guitarist who fronts the popular jam band Govt. Mule and continues to serve as a longstanding member of The Allman Brothers Band. He also moonlights in scores of other projects (The Dead, and Phil Lesh and Friends among them).
But the ensemble to which Haynes lends his name leans heavily on vintage soul, blues and R&B. His 2011 album with the band, Man in Motion, earned Haynes a Grammy nomination and, as part of a blues delegation that included Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger, B.B. King and many others, a White House audience with President Barack Obama in February.
Haynes will discuss his recent soul-searching music and his forthcoming concert recording, Live at the Moody Theater, in Living Sunday.